Bigger tormentor than Broad: Ashwin’s ‘bunny’ Warner in spinner’s sights as India pinpoint Aussie lefties

Australia v India, Axar Patel, Cricket, David Warner, india cricket, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja

David Warner revived his career with a double-hundred in the Boxing Day Test but the man who torments him more than Stuart Broad is ready to snuff it out. 

If Ravichandran Ashwin is not opening the bowling on the spin-doctored Nagpur pitch against Australia, it won’t be too long before Warner’s nemesis is brought into the attack.

Ashwin has dismissed Warner 10 times in just 15 Tests, once every 1.5 matches, which is superior to Broad’s record of 14 in 26, which equates to 1.85. 

For all the goodwill sent Warner’s way when the veteran opener smashed South Africa for an even 200 at the MCG, the fact still remains that it was the 36-year-old’s only triple-figure score in his past 29 trips to the crease in Test cricket. 

CLICK HERE for a seven-day free trial to watch the Big Bash League on KAYO

Even when you factor in the double hundred, his average during that three-year span is still just 31.71. 

NAGPUR, INDIA - FEBRUARY 07: Steve Smith and David Warner of Australia check the pitchduring a training session at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground on February 07, 2023 in Nagpur, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Steve Smith and David Warner check the pitch in Nagpur. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

And there is also the significant issue of Warner’s sub-par record in India – in the eight Tests from the 2013 and ‘17 tours, his best effort has been 71 among his three half-centuries, while averaging 24.25 from 16 innings. 

He’s also struggled against quality spin on similar wickets in Sri Lanka – averaging 25.22 from five Tests on the island nation, again with no hundreds. 

Australian selectors have long talked about choosing horses for courses. To use racing parlance, Warner is a thoroughbred on Australian soil but a long-shot to produce the goods on foreign surfaces, particularly those that spin. 

In 55 Tests at home, he has amassed 5139 runs at 58.39 with 19 hundreds but overseas, his record plummets to 2993 at 34.01 with six tons. 

Warner admitted he felt “exhausted” after a busy summer of representing Australia in all three formats and his BBL stint with the Thunder. 

Australia coach Andrew McDonald said Warner had used his week off to recharge the batteries before focusing on fixing his problems with India’s attack. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 29:  Ravichandran Ashwin of India celebrates with Virat Kohli after dismissing David Warner of Australia during day four of the Third Test match between Australia and India at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 29, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia..  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates with Virat Kohli after dismissing David Warner. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“The way that he’s applying himself in his downtime to really landing on a method to take on the Indian spinners, also the quicks, and to have a successful tour, I think you’ll see him fully invigorated, fully invested and fully recharged for the challenge ahead,” McDonald said at a press conference earlier this week. 

Part of the Australian team’s preparations has been to use local net bowlers who are similar to India’s main threats, like Ashwin. 

It could be seen as a clever ploy before such an important series or an act of desperation that shows Ashwin is living rent-free inside their minds. 

Warner, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Alex Carey and potentially Matt Renshaw and Ashton Agar could mean left-handers fill six of the Australian top eight in the batting order, which would be spinning into Ashwin’s web.

The seven players he’s dismissed the most in Test cricket are all southpaws and there’s some pretty handy batters in there – Ben Stokes (11 times in 12 matches), Warner (10 in 15), Alastair Cook (9 in 15), Tom Latham (8 in 7), a tailender in James Anderson (7 in 16), Ed Cowan (7 in 7) and Sri Lankan opener Lahiru Thirimanne (7 in 7).

Of the Aussies he’s dismissed the most, six of the top nine have been left-handers – Warner, Cowan, Mitchell Starc,  Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade and Phillip Hughes. 

His most potent method for lefties is going around the wicket into the rough created by the bowlers’ footmarks. And with the Nagpur pitch seemingly doctored to make sure that area has remained dry as a bone to ensure it will spin, Ashwin could have a field day. 

That indecision about whether to play or let the ball go weighs heavily on the batters and his laser-like accuracy on an off stump line leads to a lot of LBW and bowled dismissals. 

He’s trapped Warner in front five times and rattled his timbers twice. 

Of the 226 Test wickets he’s taken that have been left-handers, Ashwin has 57 LBW dismissals but only 39 of the 223 he’s collected for right-handers. 

Lyon is less inclined to switch around the wicket and has taken a comparatively lower tally of 169 of his 460 Test dismissals by sending lefties on their way. He’s actually won more LBW decisions (37-25) when bowling to right-handers.

The umpires – local representative Nitin Menon and England’s Richard Illingworth in the first Test – will be under enormous pressure as appeals mount for LBW shouts from the spinners. 

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin (Photo by Peter Mundy/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj are likely to be India’s pace duo at Nagpur but captain Rohit Sharma won’t be afraid to bring Ashwin on when the ball is still new. 

He has an impressive record against the top order with 143 of his 449 scalps coming from the top three, which equates to 31.8% of his overall tally. 

For comparison, Lyon has 117 of his 460 from the top order (25.4%) and the late, great Shane Warne only managed 164 of his 708 (23%) although long-time teammate Glenn McGrath’s prolific efforts with the new ball would have a large bearing on that number not being higher.

With Axar Patel and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja providing left-arm orthodox variation, they will also look to explode out of the footmarks to the Australian left-handers or come over the wicket to key right-handed duo Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne in a bid to angle the ball back into their stumps and pads.

Test wickets In India Vs Aus Vs Aus in India
Ravi Ashwin 449 at 24.3 in 88 matches 312 in 50 at 21.16 89 at 31.48 in 18 matches 39 in 10 at 31.48
Axar Patel 47 at 14.29 in 8 matches 39 at 12.43 in 6 matches Has not played Has not played
Ravindra Jadeja  242 at 24.71 in 60 matches 172 at 20.66 in 36 matches 63 at 18.85 in 12 matches 49 at 18.02 in 8 matches

Axar has had a Scott Boland-esque explosion onto the scene in Test cricket, ripping through England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in his first eight matches to take 47 wickets at an amazing average of 14.29, striking every 37 deliveries.

And Jadeja, in the veteran class these days at 34 and on the comeback trail from a knee operation last August, has a record the envy of any frontline spinner not to mention the fact he averages 36.56 with the bat and has three Test centuries in his 2523 career runs. 

Ashwin, not surprisingly, holds the record for most wickets at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium with 23 from just three matches, striking every 40 deliveries at an average of just 17.08.

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravindra Jadeja. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Nagpur has not hosted a Test since 2017, the last time Australia toured, when India trounced Sri Lanka by an innings later in the year. 

Australia were the visiting team in the first match at the ground in 2008 when Sachin Tendulkar and Simon Katich traded tons before the hosts won by 172 runs. 

In six matches at the venue, India have won four, drawn once with England in 2012 and suffered just one defeat – to South Africa in 2010 when Hashim Amla’s 253 set up an innings victory for the Proteas.

The odds are seemingly stacked against Warner and the Australians but if they can get their feet moving to the spinners to counter the turn and the rough, they could become the first team to win a Test series in India since England in 2012. 

Leave a Reply